Favorite Films of 2004

:: As posted to Blogcritics.com: By my count, I watched 115 films in 2004, but to compile a list of favorites, I’m restricting my choices to films which are eligible for the Academy Award, so will include films I’ve seen in 2005 which were released in 2004. It is not possible to compile a Ten Best List unless you are a full-time film critic. As such, I call my choices favorites, rather than the best of the year, and include twelve on my final list. In alphabetical order:

  • The Aviator: a sweeping, expansive epic, not Scorese’s best, but a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Was Di Caprio the right choice to play Hughes? Perhaps not – he still looks too young for the role, but I found his performance more believeable as the film progressed. Cate Blanchett steals every scene she’s in.
  • The Bourne Supremacy: A rock-solid sequel to The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon creates (again) the most unlikely action anti-hero of the year. Easily the best white knuckle ride of the summer.
  • Collateral: Tom Cruise in his best role since The Minority Report, Jamie Foxx in one of many star turns of the year. Another piece of Michael Mann’s eye candy night vision of Los Angeles.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11: Compelling and frightening at times, serving to remind the world how screwed up life in America is under the Bush regime. Would have been better if Michael Moore had edited out his theatrics on Capitol Hill.
  • Finding Neverland: Johnny Depp disappears into another role, adding to his resume another brilliant performance. Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn deserved an Oscar nomination, but only so many can be given out per year. A touching story of JM Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn family, at the expense of the one with his wife. Great to see Julie Christie on screen again.
  • Hotel Rwanda: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo anchor a strong supporting cast in the story of a man who saved hundreds of Tutsis from being macheted to death in Rwanda in 1994. Cheadle brings humanity and courage to his character, Paul Rusesabagina, whose role in saving so many lives reminds one of Oscar Schindler. But whereas Schindler had power to allow him to do what he did, Rusesabagina needed to be a politician, peacemaker, and saviour at the same time, while hiding his fear for his family and those he housed in his hotel. Nick Nolte deserves mention for his role as the helpless UN commander, so obviously modeled after the real one, Canadian General Romťo Dallaire.
  • House of Flying Daggers: Makes the list because of the breathtaking cinematography and special effects. Not as satisfying as Hero, the film is still amazing to look at, pure pleasure for the eyes. A love story that ultimately ends in tragedy, featuring remarkable martial arts scenes, especially in the bamboo forest.
  • Million Dollar Baby: Clint Eastwood acted in, directed, produced, and wrote the music – not bad at all. A boxing movie that takes an unexpected turn, Eastwood and Hilary Swank excel in their respective roles, as does Morgan Freeman, who makes it look all too easy. Controversial to some, thought-provoking for sure.
  • Napoleon Dynamite: An alt-indie weirdo of a picture, worth the price of admission just to see him dance on stage. Anyone who walked out during the credits missed another 10-15 minutes of the movie afterwards.
  • Team America: World Police: Rude, obscene, ruthless, disgusting, and easily the gut-busting funniest movie I’ve seen in years. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much and so hard in a movie theatre.
  • Vera Drake: Brit stage actress Imelda Staunton in the performance of the year as a gentle, loving, working-class woman in post-WWII England. With brilliant supporting performances all around, director Mike Leigh recreates the suffocating, shell-shocked atmosphere of that time in a movie about a controversial subject that never feels preachy.
  • The Woodsman: Kevin Bacon in the performance of his career, sadly overlooked in the Oscars, in a film about a convict just released from prison, trying to establish his life on the outside. But his crime was horrific, and once revealed, we are left to decide if his character deserves sympathy and a second chance. Mos Def and (real life wife) Kyra Sedgwick deliver strong supporting performances.

Runners-up: Before Sunset, The Clearing, Closer, Code 46, The Corporation, Garden State, Good Bye, Lenin!, The Incredibles, Kinsey, The Machinist, Man on Fire, Maria Full of Grace, Open Water, P.S., Primer, Ray, Shrek 2, Sideways, Super Size Me, Touching the Void.

Films I didn’t see which might have made the list: Bad Education, Being Julia, Dogville, The Door in the Floor, Friday Night Lights, I’m Not Scared, The Mother, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Sea Inside, A Very Long Engagement, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,

I (Still) Don’t Get It: The Saddest Music in the World.

2004 Great Disappointments: The Stepford Wives, Troy, The Village.

5 Responses to “Favorite Films of 2004”

  1. Brad Says:

    More opportunities to be grateful that you live in a real city…..here in the sunny south, we frequently do not get many of the Oscar nominees in the first run theatres. Our local second run house does an admirable job of trying to bring in some of the better smaller films, but Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby and Sideways were not brought in until they received their nominations. Then we get to play catch up, and try to see as many of the nominees as possible before the awards. We don’t usually succeed.

    Ah well……I think Johnny Depp was robbed tonight. Granted, Jamie Foxx was brilliant in his role as Ray Charles, but he actually had an opportunity to meet with and work with Mr. Charles before making the movie. Certainly Depp’s absolutely convincing turn as J.M. Barrie was a more difficult, and therefore laudatory task?

    Call me a cinematic buffoon, (many do), but I was surprised at the absence of Spanglish from your list. Did you not see it, or did you see it and find it wanting?

  2. Steve Says:

    I’ve seen three of your top ten and two of your runners-up. I can’t believe you saw 115 movies last year! Where do you find the time? Of the movies you list, I saw three in a theatre, the other two on DVD. Val and I went to less than 10 movies in theatres last year. On the other hand, we saw about 100 live soccer games!

  3. cindi Says:

    Do see The Door in the Floor. It’s an excellent adaptation of the beginning of A Widow for One Year, one of my favorite John Irving novels. If you saw Cider House Rules or Simon Birch (ugh), you have an idea how difficult it is to adapt Irving’s work. I didn’t see Garp (the famous scene is keeping me away) and won’t see Hotel New Hampshire until I read it, so I can’t compare those. Anyway, Jeff Bridges and Kim Bassinger are great as Ted and Marion.

  4. Garth Danielson Says:

    I had a poor year for new movies last year, I only saw 185. I spent a lot of my free time watching many tv shows on the dvd’s that I bought, right now i am watching the new set of SCTV.
    I did spend quite some time reading and listening to the Harry Potter books. I really like Steven Fry reading the books in the English editions. He is so much better than Jim Dale, who reads the USA versions. Reading the books in English is better than reading them in American. Three listenings of the audio books took roughly 225 hours. I did read 72 books last year, not a hugh pile but respectable. This year I’m doing better, I finished my 25th book yesterday. I have been reading a lot of young adult novels by Dianna Wynne Jones, I just can’t put her down, I just can’t wait to finish her books to see what happens. I haven’t read a bad one yet.
    I was looking at my list and a few of my favorites are below. Some of them are movies from other years, my list is of movies that i saw for the first time in 2004, not just movies that come out that year.
    The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile & The Majestic – A hat trick for Frank Darabont, and a great preformance by Jim Carrey in the last. I always like Jim Carrey. I am not one of those people who think that comedians can’t do drama etc. Given the right material and the right director comedians can do drama, this has been proven over and over again. Learning from the past is a good thing. It was no surprise to me that Jamie Foxx has reached the levels he has risen to…he showed great talent as far back as his days on In Living Color.
    Hellboy – check out the Director’s Cut and Del Toro’s commentary – great.
    KIll Bill 1 & 2 – a wonderful revenge movie.
    Lord of the Rings Pt 3 – I watched the whole extended trilogy on new years day and that was fun.
    Bubba Ho-tep – my favorite recent Bruce Campbell movie and a great turn by the late Ossie Davis as John F. Kennedy.
    50 First Dates – a wonderful romantic comedy which made me cry at the end. I am a big fan of Drew Barrymore, I see all of her movies.
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – best movie version yet.
    Mona Lisa Smile – I liked this story and all the actresses in this. I have a soft spot for art chicks, I just wouldn’t want to date one. Kirsten Dunst is another favorite, although this movies is packed with great actresses. Mike Newell is doing the next Harry Potter film.
    Jersey Girl – this is a sweet movie with a good cast, even Ben Afleck is ok. Raquel Castro is cute as a bug and just wonderful as his daughter, George Carlin is great as his dad, and Stephen Root and Mike Starr steal all the scenes they are in.
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – One of my favorites for the year and certainly in my top 100 favorites.
    Catch me if You can – a great story and a great pair of actors.
    Shrek 2 – I just love the big green guy, too bad he didn’t play the Hulk, which was not a favorite, too many dads in that one.
    Spiderman 2 – Big Sam Rami fan and of course there is Kirsten Dunst.
    Collateral – the only thing by Micheal Mann that i like, at all, and mostly for Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise, who I believe can be a good actor with the right director in control. He knows his craft.
    Napolean Dynamite – wonderful, a movie I am actively trying to get people to see.
    Anchorman – a great romantic comedy, who wouldn’t fall for Christina Applegate, she’s so cute.
    Uptown Girls – a fun buddy movie with Britney Murphy and Dakota Fanning.

  5. A Sea of Flowers Says:

    White Chicks?

    I watched the Academy Awards show on TV on Sunday. I loved the actresses in their gowns. Eye candy. The Naughty Vicar was demanding to be heard. I loved Chris Rock, especially that skit where he interviewed people (I recognized some so I assume some of…

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